64 Arts

Growing up, my little brother’s favorite movie was Flight of the Navigator. Granted, he was at that age when long, complex titles become garbled in the retelling and he would ask to see ‘Flyin’ of the Alligator’ with some frequency.

If you’ve never seen it (or it’s been too long since the last time), it’s about a boy who goes on an adventure in an alien spaceship. The ship is piloted by a robot and, like all stereotypical robots, it speaks in a particular manner. There is no yes, no, maybe stuff, it’s all negative, affirmative and–my favorite–compliance (robot pilot for “I’m on it!”).


A teen of the 90s, when I think of the word “affirmations” I think of the SNL skit Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley. His affirmation?

I’m good enough, I’m smart enough,
and, doggone it, people like me!

This probably explains a lot about why I feel incredibly silly practicing affirmations in my day-to-day life. Well, whenever I’ve entertained the notion. That is to say not very often.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m all for the personal pep talks and keeping the good thoughts going strong–I just have issues with the must-do, regimental feel that they’ve been presented to me in the past. Combine that with the SNL memories and, well, yeah. Affirmations and I don’t go over so well.

But they do help plenty of others, this much I know for certain!

Remember the story about the Little Engine That Could? His mantra of “I think I can, I think I can” sounds a lot like an affirmation with the exception of the potential for failure. Oh, sure, the Little Engine does and he learns his lesson, but the key between his phrase and a true affirmation is the difference between thinking and knowing.

Ideal affirmations are constructed in a very concrete, very  now sort of language. You wake up, you look yourself in the mirror and what?

Are you more invigorated by ‘I will be a productive member of society, today.’ or ‘I AM a productive member of society.’ Is your confidence bolstered more by ‘I think I can do this’ or ‘I’ve got this in the bag.’ What psyches you up better: ‘I will do my best’ or ‘I am the best.’

It’s a matter of degrees, sure, but it’s an important degree.

And it seems like there’s a certain amount of fake-it-til-you-make-it in affirmations. In a good way, of course, but it’s still there. It’s part Law of Attraction, manifestation, visualization and a little bit of Whistle a Happy Tune from The King and I.

DIY Affirmations

I know it sounds like I’m beating up on well-intentioned affirmations today, but it’s mostly because I think (scratch that! I know!) we can do better. For ourselves and for each other.

Who says affirmations have to be accompanied by tweeting birds and babbling brooks? Let’s affirm our awesomeness to the sound of a little Joan Jett or Lady Gaga if that’s what gets us feeling good. Affirmations spoken quietly to yourself so as not to disturb anyone still sleeping? Forget that, let’s shout it out in the shower while we wash away the grime of the day (or the one before)!

Let’s make our own affirmations that really speak for and to us. Here’s how:

  1. Start with the ‘I.’ Just like you can’t change that guy that’s almost perfect, all you can change is yourself. Feel like talking about yourself in the third person? Sure, why not? But it really has to be you. The exception would be if you’re co-creating an affirmation for a group or organization–less of a mission statement, more of a Now-ism.
  2. Future-tense verbs need not apply. Best is present but I can see some use for past-tense in the sense (hah!) of “I’ve got this in the bag”–you’ve confident because you know you’ve got the skills, have practiced, are prepared. Nothing passive, either. None of this ‘I will be…’, stick to the ‘I am…’ and ‘I have…’ statements. Future tense is great for goals, for planning, affirmations are in the current, the now.
  3. Be objective. And be clear–no vague affirmations, here! Give a little thought to exactly what you’re fixing into place for the day, week or more.

Does this change your opinion of affirmations? Did you not have the hang-ups I did, before? Are you going to try out the affirmation habit?